Philip-Lorca diCorcia

Philip-Lorca diCorcia

Philip-Lorca diCorcia (born 1951) is an American artist photographer. He studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Afterwards he went to Yale where, in 1979, he got a Master of Fine Arts in Photography. He now works and lives in New York.

He has won several awards and is considered one of the most influential photographers of his generation.


Philip-Lorca diCorcia was born in 1951 in Hartford, Connecticut. He attended the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, where he earned a Diploma in 1975 and a 5th year certificate in 1976. He received a Master of Fine Arts from Yale University in Photography in 1979.


DiCorcia's work has been exhibited in group shows in both the United States and Europe since 1977, he participated in the traveling exhibition “Pleasures and Terrors of Domestic Comfort”, organized by New York's MOMA in 1991. His work was also featured in the 1997 Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art, and, in the 2003 exposition “Cruel and Tender” at London's Tate Modern. The following year DiCorcia’s work was included in “Fashioning Fiction in Photography Since 1990” at the MOMA. His most recent series was seen in the Carnegie Museum of Art’s 54th Carnegie International exhibition in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He has also exhibited in Essen, Germany; Salamanca, Spain and in Stockholm, Sweden.

DiCorcia received his first solo show in 1985 and from then on he has been featured in one-person exhibitions worldwide, including those at New York's Museum of Modern Art; Paris' Centre National de la Photographie; London's Whitechapel Art Gallery; Madrid's Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía; Tokyo's Art Space Ginza; and Hannover's Sprengel Museum.


diCorcia alternates between informal snapshots and iconic quality staged compositions that often have a baroque theatricality. Using a carefully planned staging, he takes everyday occurrences beyond the realm of banality, trying to inspire in his picture's spectators an awareness of the psychology and emotion contained in real-life situations. His work could be described as documentary photography mixed with the fictional world of cinema and advertising, which creates a powerful link between reality, fantasy and desire.

During the late 1970s, during diCorcia's early career, he used to situate his friends and family within fictional interior tableaus, that would make the viewer think that the pictures were spontaneous shots of someone's everyday life, when they were in fact carefully staged and planned in beforehand. He would later start photographing random people in urban spaces all around the world. When in Berlin, Calcutta, Hollywood, New York, Rome and Tokyo, he would often hide lights in the pavement, which would iluminate a random subject in a special way, often isolating them from the other people in the street. His photographs would then give a a sense of heightened drama to the passers-by accidental poses, unintended movements and insignificant facial expressions. Even if sometimes the subject appears to be completely detached to the world around him, diCorcia has often used the city of the subject's name as the title of the photo, placing the passers-by back into the city's anonymity. Each of his series, “Hustlers,” “Streetwork,” “Heads,” “A Storybook Life,” and “Lucky Thirteen,” can be considered progressive explorations of diCorcia’s formal and conceptual fields of interest. Besides his family, associates and random people he has also photographed personas already theatrically enlarged by their life choices, such as the pole dancers in his latest series.

His pictures have black humor within them, and have been described as "Rorschach-like", since they can have a different interpretation depending on the viewer. As they are planned beforehand, diCorcia often plants in his concepts issues like the marketing of reality, the commodification of identity, art, and morality.

Selected awards

2001...Infinity Award for Applied Photography, International Center of Photography
1998 ...Alfred Eisenstaedt Award, Life Magazine, Style Essay
1989...Artist Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts
1987...John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship
1986...Artist Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts
1980...Artist Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts


In 2006, a New York trial court issued a ruling in a case involving one of his photographs. One of diCorcia's New York random subjects was Ermo Nussenzweig, an Orthodox Jew who objected on religious grounds to diCorcia's publishing in an artistic exhibition a photograph taken of him without his permission. The photo's subject argued that his privacy and religious rights had been violated by both the taking and publishing of the photograph of him. The judge dismissed the lawsuit, finding that the photograph taken of Nussenzweig on a street is art - not commerce - and therefore is protected by the First Amendment.

Manhattan state Supreme Court Justice Judith J. Gische ruled that the photo of Nussenzweig—a head shot showing him sporting a scraggly white beard, a black hat and a black coat—was art, even though the photographer sold 10 prints of it at $20,000 to $30,000 each. The judge ruled that New York courts have "recognized that art can be sold, at least in limited editions, and still retain its artistic character (...) First Amendment protection of art is not limited to only starving artists. A profit motive in itself does not necessarily compel a conclusion that art has been used for trade purposes.

The case was appealed and dismissed on procedural grounds.


Further reading

  • Luc Sante and Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Philip-Lorca diCorcia: Heads, Steidl, October 2, 2001. (ISBN 3882434414)
  • Peter Galassi and Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, May 2 2003 (ISBN 0870701452)
  • Bennett Simpson (Author), Jill Medvedow (Foreword), Lynne Tillman (Contributor), Philip-Lorca diCorcia (Photographer),Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Steidl/Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, May 1, 2007. (ISBN-10: 3865213855)
  • Philip-Lorca diCorcia, A Storybook Life, Santa Fe, N.M.: Twin Palms Publishers, 2003.

External links

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